What We’re Tasting: A Great Find in the Chardonnay Wasteland

This semi-regular feature showcases wines we’ve tasted that made an impression on us during our sometimes-marathon staff tastings. They won’t necessarily be in the store (yet) for purchase, but if what we’re tasting sounds good to you, let us know in the comments!

When I was a teenager, the owner of the local “artsy” movie theater used to stand in the front during previews and ask for feedback at the end of each one. We would clap or boo or just yell out our thoughts into the crowd. It was great fun, and it really made it feel like it was our theater.

We want Chain Bridge Cellars to be your local wine shop, and “What We’re Tasting Now” is meant to give you wine “previews” from the hours we spend tasting and deciding what to bring into the store. So, if one of the previews sounds intriguing to you, let us know! Feel free to clap or boo, too.

We taste a lot of wine trying to decide what to bring into the store. So much so that we all know each others’ tasting quirks, sensitivities, likes and dislikes the way you know that your best friend can’t even look at Miracle Whip.

And, if you talk to us in the shop, you know that good New World Chardonnay is one of the hardest things for us to find. We’ve tasted a lot of bad Chardonnay, friends, so much that our vendors have started referring to our tasting table as the Chardonnay Vortex of Doom.

So when we saw a slope-shouldered bottle of J Christopher Chardonnay 2010 come out of an insulated wine bag last week, those of us not familiar with this rising star winemaker in the Willamette Valley braced ourselves. Maybe grimaced. Did some jumping jacks. OK, we’re ready. Do your worst, Chardonnay!

We needn’t have worried, because what jumped out of the glass was the kind of fresh, pithy, lemony aroma we all love. No flab and drab here, the J Christopher Chardonnay is like a laser beam of freshness. Zingy acidity, bright flavors, clean, snappy finish. Perfect for seafood, or a big salad featuring the last of the season’s tomatoes.

The fun didn’t stop there, because it was immediately followed by the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2009. It’s definitely of the ‘blood and iron’ school of Pinot Noir. Classic aromas of mushroomy forest floor and minerality layer over high-toned red fruit. Mouthwatering acidity, and a restrained ABV of 13.5%. I suggested grabbing the bottle and closing the shop to go across the street to Bistro Vivant for duck.

What are your favorite food pairings for crisp Chardonnay and earthy Pinot?

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